What started as a trickle with defensive end DeMarcus Ware on Wednesday turned into a flood on Thursday when the Dallas Cowboys restructured five more contracts to clear more than $20 million to get under the NFL’s expected 2013 salary cap of $123 million.
The Cowboys also managed to squeeze in the signing of long snapper L.P. LaDouceur to a five-year contract extension along the way.
But the plethora of moves were mainly about clearing cap room so they can be in compliance by the start of free agency on March 12. The Cowboys had been roughly $20 million over the cap before they got things started by adjusting Ware’s contract on Wednesday, saving $4 million.
Cornerback Brandon Carr led the surge on Thursday when he had $13.5 million of his $14.3 million base salary for 2013 turned into a bonus, saving the team $10.8 million. The team announced his restructured deal along with deals for receiver Miles Austin, center Ryan Cook and tight end Jason Witten.
Witten had $4.56 million of his $5.5 million 2013 base salary converted into a signing bonus to save roughly $3.65 million against the cap. The Cowboys saved another $3 million by converting part of Austin’s $6.7 million base salary into a bonus.
The Cowboys also reworked the deal of guard Nate Livings, according to a source.
The team has approached cornerback Orlando Scandrick, guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff about restructuring their deals as well to clear more cap room. The moves haven’t happened yet, but a source close to Ratliff said the four-time Pro Bowler will adjust his deal soon.
The moves are keeping with vice president Stephen Jones’ promise last week at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“We are going to get under the cap,” Jones said. “That is a nonissue.”
The issue, according to Jones, is “what resources we have after we get under the cap. That is the bigger question.”
That is the reason the Cowboys still are trying to rework other deals and plan to release players if they don’t take pay cuts.
The Cowboys have given linebacker Dan Connor an ultimatum to take a pay cut or get released. Stephen Jones acknowledged last week safety Gerald Sensabaugh and his $3 million could be a salary casualty.
The Cowboys plan to address benched right tackle Doug Free and his $7 million base salary. A roster purge with Free couldn’t happen until after June 1 for the Cowboys to net any real savings. However, he could be asked to take a pay cut if they plan to bring him back next year.
Owner Jerry Jones has said the Cowboys didn’t need to get quarterback Tony Romo’s deal done to get under the cap by March 12, but they needed to get him signed to a long-term contract extension to lower his $16.8 million cap number for next season if they hoped to achieve all of their off-season goals.
One of those goals was to secure the highly respected LaDouceur. His contract averages $1.1 million a year and includes a $600,000 signing bonus, a source said.
“I met with them at the combine in the Indy, and they said they would get back to me this week,” said Gil Scott, LaDouceur’s agent. “Things just fell together. L.P. was happy about staying with the Cowboys. He would like to stay there his entire career.”